It’s a rare feat for any filmmaker to screen two of his/her films at the same international film festival in a span of a few hours. Well, National-award winning actor, dialogue writer-cum-director Ananth Narayan Mahadevan is basking in the warmth of his two socially relevant films — Bittersweet (2021) and The Knocker (2021) that were screened at the 52nd IFFI, Goa. Mahadevan has carefully cast his bread upon the waters, and deservedly it was returned to him in the form of appreciation for his films.
Bittersweet follows the heart-wrenching travails of women sugarcane cutters from Beed village in Maharashtra, while The Knockers highlights the plight of loneliness and solitary confinement during the pandemic. “It is the story of India’s Blood-Sugar. It’s how bitter the sugar we use can be in real life,” says Mahadevan, a renowned film director of Hindi, Tamil, Marathi and Malayalam films and television shows.
Narrating the exploitation of women sugarcane cutters and the horrific practice in the fields, Mahadevan says that the sugarcane cutting period is just six months in a year. “The women labourers survive on the paltry salary they receive during the harvest. They can’t afford to lose a single day. Unfortunately, they lose 3-4 days every month during their menstrual cycle. So, to avoid this wage loss and penalty, many women cutters undergo hysterectomies (removal of the uterus, the womb),” he says.
The Marathi-language movie stars Akshaya Gurav, Suresh Vishwakarma, Anil Nagarkar and Guru Thakur among others.
Several quacks and non-qualified gynaecologists from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have migrated to Beed to make quick money. They convince these poor women that the ‘operation’ would help them get rid of all their problems — menstrual pain, wage loss, tumours in the uterus and other medical issues. “The heinous practice exists even today. Many young women undergo the surgery. This is a story of survival. A story of changing the biological cycle that absolutely shakes you up,” says Mahadevan, the director of the National award-winning movie, Me Sindhutai Sapkal (2010).
Perhaps it is Mahadevan’s nous for choosing sensitive subjects and then doing full justice to it. His movies are not just crowd-pullers. They are films that fight for a social cause. Now that’s what we call the true power of cinema!...